One of my lovely WORDPLAY registrants recently told she was having a hard time trying to figure out the “why” of her business.
(Your “why” is the core belief that drives your business – the reason why you do what you do. The more clearly you communicate that belief, the more likely you are to attract people who share it. They’re the people who are most likely to become your best customers, clients, and ambassadors.)
She asked me what my “why” was, and the process I used to define it.
These days I would say my “why” is to communicate game-changing information and ideas that bring people into greater alignment with each other and the planet – and help make the world a more informed, peaceful, collaborative, and enlightened place.
(Because why not aim high, right?)
But that wasn’t always my “why.”
When I first launched my business, my “why” was basically this: to make enough money doing freelance work to pay the bills while I took care of my young boys and spent every spare second of free time writing the novel that was going to “change it all.”
(And by “change it all” I mean, enable me to make enough money to support my family while writing whatever the hell I wanted to write instead of what other people paid me to write.)
I put very little thought into my actual business — other than doing my best on every freelance project and being grateful for all the clients who came to me via word of mouth. (Saved me from having to market, ha!) All my focus was on my fiction writing because I felt like I had to finish my book and get it published ASAP so I could finally start “living the life of my dreams.”
But as I learned more about the publishing industry, I came to realize that my chances of ever being able to make enough money with my fiction writing to support my family were about a gazillion to one.
Sure, I could have gone into self-publishing – but that journey requires a LOT of work. And because of all my client projects, I had 10 hours a week maximum to spend on my fiction writing. At the rate I was going, it was going to take me six or seven years to write a simple YA trilogy!
I didn’t think I wanted to wait that long to start “living the life of my dreams” – especially since I was already exhausted from years of working all day for my clients and almost every night and on the weekends for myself.
So I asked myself some hard questions:
- WHY did I have my heart set on being a successful novelist?
- What did I find so appealing about it?
- What was I hoping to achieve with my writing?
- What kind of lifestyle did I imagine myself enjoying in my ideal life?
The answers that came to me were most illuminating.
I wanted to be a successful novelist because I’m a mad inhaler of stories, love writing, and am good at it.
Being a novelist was a job I could do from home. It would give me the flexibility to shape my work life around my family life and be there for my kids when they needed me.
It was a job I could do anywhere, anytime. It would free me up to travel and explore the world – a life-long passion of mine.
It would also help me make a difference in the world. As a successful author with a large audience, my writing could have a real and lasting impact. I wanted to share powerful ideas that would entertain and inspire people while helping them see the world in a different light – and motivate them to do more good in the world.
As I was thinking all these deep thoughts, my business kept tapping me on the shoulder. “Ahem,” it whispered. “Helloooo… Have you not been paying attention to how effortless I am? And do you not think that might be a sign that I’M the road you need to travel to achieve that life of your dreams?”
The epiphany hit with the force of a falling piano.
I was already working from home and able to shape my work life around my family life. I was living in one of the most beautiful places in the world and had created a profitable business in a small town where too many businesses languish and the number of decent jobs is vanishingly small.
And for the most part I actually enjoyed the work I did for my clients. I was always happy to get up on Monday and dive into work – the complete opposite of how I felt when I worked in the corporate world.
As for traveling the world and making a real difference with my writing, I hadn’t achieved those goals yet. I was helping a lot of local business owners, which felt great – but I wasn’t making quite enough money to go traveling and I didn’t feel like the messages I was helping to send were reaching enough people to have a big impact.
But I figured that was just a matter of tweaking.
So, with the help of the brilliant Leah Goard, I started to focus more on my business.
I got clearer about the kind of clients I wanted to serve: ones whose products and services clearly change people’s lives for the better and have a positive impact on the world — and then I changed my website copy to speak more directly to them.
I whittled my list of marketing services down to just copywriting and content development — because they’re the jobs I love most and am best at.
And I started to look for ways in which I could share my online communication expertise with as many awesome people as possible.
(We now live in a world where creators can now sell their products and sell them directly to consumers all over the world. I want to make sure that artists, writers, and progressive businesses who offer products and services that benefit not only the users but the world around them are able to communicate their message to the people who are most likely to support them and help them grow. Hence my upcoming WORDPLAY course.)
The wonderful thing is, the clearer I’ve become on what my “why” is, the more successful my business has become.
I have attracted some amazing clients who have a huge reach and are creating positive change on the personal, societal, and environmental level.
I have more than tripled my income over the past two years.
I went traveling to Ecuador, Alberta, and Arizona this year, with more travel plans shaping up for 2015 and 2016.
And next year, for the first time ever, I’m going to be able to take two whole months off from work to focus on my fiction – and bang out a complete first draft of a new novel I can’t wait to write.
(Nope, I haven’t put that dream aside – I’m more excited about writing fiction than ever, and it feels so good because the pressure of trying to write a one-in-a-million moneymaker has completely disappeared.)
Best of all, I love what I do.
So that’s how I came to achieve my “why” – and how defining it more clearly has helped me grow my business and create more alignment between my personal goals and passions and more joy in what I do for a living.
What’s YOUR why?
Is that something you’re clear on – or are you still struggling to define it? If the latter, I recommend you look inside yourself and ask: what kind of life do I want to live? What do I want my life to MEAN? And how can I use my business to achieve that?
If you can answer those questions, you’re bound to come up with a WHY that will feed your soul even as it helps you grow your business.